HMS Grappler, 1856-1883
Grappler was a 3-gun gunboat built in 1846; it arrived in Esquimalt from England, along with the Forward and the Termagant, on 12 July 1860, with Lieutenant Commander Alfred Herby at its helm.1
Grappler operated on the British Columbia coast from 1860-68, until it was sold at public auction and then converted into a freighter, after which it sailed under several owners for the following 15 years.2
Prior to its conversion and sale, Grappler had a rather storied history in the Salish Sea. It was involved in the Admiralty's efforts to, as Paget, Lord Clarence Edward to Rogers, Baron Blachford Frederic 29 June 1863, CO 60:17, no. 6387, 33 puts it, prevent the illicit traffic in spirits on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, particularly for the Indigenous population, who had, according to the same correspondence, committed outrages on White Men. A later despatch, from 1865, notes the Grappler's alleged illegal seizure of a vessel suspected of smuggling.
Drama and controversy followed Grappler to its fiery fate on 29 April 1883, when it burned on route up the eastern coast of the Island and, according to Walbran's account, lost a large number of persons, said to be seventy-two, principally Chinese passengers on their way to the canneries.3
  • 1. John T. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1971), 216.
  • 2. Andrew Scott, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2009), 234-35.
  • 3. Walbran, British Columbia Coast Names, 216.
Mentions of this vessel in the documents